Athens may go to Hague over Turkey

As the government issued its clearest indication yet that it may take its air space dispute with Ankara to an international court, Greek and Turkish border patrol vessels staged a long standoff in the Aegean just a week after a collision between two fighter jets. «The government has not turned a deaf ear to the debate that has been opened by the article written by former president Costis Stephanopoulos,» government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos said. Stephanopoulos, writing in Kathimerini on Sunday, proposed that the International Court of Justice should rule on Greece’s air space dispute with Turkey and other issues. Defense Minister Evangelos Meimarakis refuted reports about different stances on the matter between the Foreign and Defense ministries, stressing that the option of appealing to the International Court at The Hague had always formed part of Greece’s policy. A few hours before these comments, a Turkish border patrol boat entered Greek waters near the disputed islet of Imia – where a Greek fishing boat had tossed out its net – prompting a Greek patrol boat to call for its withdrawal, Defense Ministry sources said. This prompted a standoff which lasted around three hours. «This is not an unusual event but given that it comes only days after the jet crash, it is at least suspect,» Reuters quoted a Defense Ministry official as saying. Roussopoulos refused to answer any questions about the incident, saying it was a matter for the coast guard. It was over the same small islet of Imia, known as Kardak by the Turks, that Greece and Turkey narrowly avoided armed conflict in 1996 following another standoff. In Turkey yesterday, several press commentaries analyzed Stephanopoulos’s proposal for Greece to take its air space dispute to the Hague court. «The international court is unlikely to satisfy the demands of either of the two sides,» Turkey’s former foreign minister Ilter Turkmen told the Hurriyet daily. Many papers called for a swift resolution to «the Aegean problems.»